Tagged: PD

“What’s Web2.0?” at Apollo Bay

Image created with ThingLink

Thank you for inviting me to your lovely, country P12 college today! As a small, rural school in SW Victoria, Hawkesdale P12 College is a very similar school to this. We have about 250 students, mostly from farming families, arriving by bus each school day. I imagine you have similar concerns with isolation from major centres, distance to services and lack of multicultural awareness that comes from living in small, rural and regional communities. Today we are going to look at some tools that we have used at Hawkesdale P12 College for connecting, communicating and collaborating with the world.

Wallwisher is a free, easy-to-use site where you can post digital sticky notes. It can be used for exit slips, brainstorming, reflection and sharing ideas.

Wordle is a site that allows you to create beautiful word clouds from text. Tagxedo is similar, but allows you to choose the shape of your word cloud. Use it for introducing a unit or finding out how much students know about a topic.

Bubbl.us is another fee site where you can create concept maps. Students need to register to save their work.

Voicethread allows students to add text, voice and annotations to images. You can create multimedia presentations using your own images or upload creative commons images from Flickr.

Blackboard Collaborate is free for DEECD teachers and enables virtual classes, meetings and professional development. You can be teaching a class and within 10 minutes be participating in a education conference with teachers from around the globe, without leaving the staffroom. You and your students can link up with experts, such as Scientist in Schools partners or Melbourne Zoo staff, without hiring a bus or organizing permission forms. Please click on this link to access the Blackboard Collaborate Virtual Room.

Performance and Development Review


This is the time of year when teachers at our school are required to write our performance and development review document that consists of our goals for the year and our plans for professional development and improved performance.  As an ‘accomplished’ teacher, with nine years of experience, I am required to demonstrate high levels of the following:

  • Knowledge of relevant curriculum areas, student learning processes and resources
  • Classroom teaching skills and constructive strategies that allow students to reach their full potential. 
  • Effective assessment and reporting strategies
  • Effective responses to emerging educational initiatives and priorities.
  • Communication skills and professional behaviour
  • Organisation and management of aspects of the wider school program.
  • Improved teaching and performance skills through critically evaluating professional practices.
  • Professional assistance to other teachers in classroom related areas.

 Over the past 12 months I have been a part of the literacy coaching program, designed to improve the literacy of students across the school in all their subject areas. This program allows me to spend time with my coach and mentor, discussing teaching strategies that can improve comprehension of scientific terminology and understanding of science concepts. We have employed several strategies that have been effective in both middle years and VCE classes. These include:

  •  Exit slips
  • Cornel notes
  •  Reciprocal teaching
  • Explicit learning intentions and success criteria
  • Collection and use of student data to inform teaching
  • Catering for individual difference.

All my efforts with integrating technology into the maths and science curriculum and providing online VCE Environmental Science classes to students across the state may not be fully recognised without data to show that these strategies have been successful in improving student learning. So, I think my goal for this year is to try to provide the evidence for improved learning using ICT in my maths and science classes. I have anecdotal evidence, from the students themselves, that they enjoy using netbooks and find it easy to access information as well as organise and retrieve their work. They enjoy having ownership of their personal device and like the ability to personalise their netbooks to suit their own styles of learning.

A Day with Stephen Heppell


On Friday 11th March I was very privileged to be able to attend the Country Education Project “Future Rural Leaders Forum” facilitated by Professor Stephen Heppell. I participated in the first session in November last year, as a result of Hawkesdale P12 College’s key role in the Virtual Teaching Project, in which I was a supervising teacher to a pre-service teacher from University of Ballarat. It was wonderful to be able to meet up with Michelle and Bianca, now in their first year of teaching, and let them know that I have been thinking of them both.

The session started with a review of the video that was produced at the conclusion of the last seminar and a brainstorm of the blockers and enablers that had impacted on each of us achieving the goals we had set ourselves. I had set the goal of using a ‘praise pod’ and ‘hero cards’ to recognise the achievements of my students, as well as giving students more ‘”choice and voice” in the classroom. I still hope to implement these strategies in the classroom, but I have initiated a few other Stephen Heppell ideas in the meantime.

  • I made the suggestion of having a student on our interview panel when we advertised a position last year. This was strongly howled down by a fellow staff member, who saw it as a gross invasion of privacy.
  • I have created a “Hawkesdale P12 College” Facebook page, which only has teachers as viewers so far, but once the principal has approved, we can advertise in the school newsletter. Professor Heppell refferred us to Cloudlearn.net, a site for the research project about using Facebook safely in the classroom. One of his strongly held opinions is that schools do not need bulky “acceptable use” policies – students and teachers know the rules of the school and they should behave in the same way online.
  • I have created facebook groups for my VCE Biology and VCE Environmental Science classes. This is a great way to connect with the students – wish them a happy birthday, find out what they did on weekends and holidays, remind them of work and assessment tasks, provide links to resources and interesting video clips and importantly, model appropriate online behaviour.
  • I used the “Japanese Multiplication” YouTube clip in my maths classroom, which prompted an interesting discussion of how it works.
  • I participated in the discussions for landscaping around our new building, to make the natural environment accessible to students and part of learning every day.

If you know anything about Stephen Heppell you will probably know that he is a great fan of playful and authentic learning. He has worked with students and teachers in all parts of the world to enhance learning by giving students more ownership and it follows that there is no one answer to the perfect school or classroom. Different spaces suit different styles of teaching and learning so teachers will perform better in certain types of classrooms. Stephen gives the example of a UK school in which the students were given the task of designing their own classroom, a project they worked on for two years. The end result was the transformation of a shipping container into a modern space with mood lighting, a Skype bar, diversity of seating, whiteboard paint on all the surfaces where any devices that students walked in with just worked – wifi, mobile phones, netbooks.

Professor Heppell also advocates for parents and grandparents to be a significant presence in the school – as teacher support and to shadow a student for the day. Adults other than teachers, who can share their skills, can be careers advisors, music coaches, gardening advisors and more. This strategy ‘broadens the support base’ or ‘flattens the pyramid’ by giving more people ‘ownership’ of what happens in the school. He suggests that mobile phone technology and Facebook can be used to engage parents in the school. Stephen suggests that schools of the third millenium will be smaller and decentralized, with the administration ‘disaggregated’.

 When purchasing furniture, he suggests that locally made items can be sourced to the ideal specifications and purpose built at reasonable prices. This had been very successful at a Liverpool school, where there was a high rate of unemployment in the region. Mirrors on the wall assist to see student faces when they are working on computers installed against walls and giant billboard style photographs can be created to advertise the school and promote it’s values. Another suggestion was to mount a webcam at the highest point of the school, with the live streaming posted to the school website. It was very interesting to note that the ideal temperature for learning is considered to be 18*C.

When Professor Heppell was asked about middle years science learning he recommended that students be asked what they want to learn – using the scientific method to investigate our world comes naturally to children. The Observe-Question-Hypothesis-Test cycle is the way that virtual worlds and computer games are developed, so it is quite easy to use game-based learning to assist students to understand the scientific method. He recommends enquiry-based and project-based learning, suggesting the science of technology – how a mobile phone works for example. Stephen also showed a link to simulations of Newton’s laws and centipedal forces at Rubble.Heppell.net.

Spending time with Stephen Heppell was  great, but another highlight of my day in Melbourne was meeting up with fellow tweeps, who I had not met face to face before. Jenny Ashby (@jjash) organised dinner at the Blue Train, which was attended by Anne Mirtschin (@murcha); Helen Otway (@helenotway); Heather Carver (@hcarver); Lois Smethurst (@loisath); Bronwyn Mcleod (@seriata); Gillian  (@macgirl19); Georgina Pazzi (@edumazing) and Scott Duncan (@sduncan0101). What a fantastic, friendly bunch of tech-savvy educators all in one place together! I wish we could have talked all night, but a 4.30am start prevented that from happening. It got me to thinking how lucky I am to have a wonderful PLN – even though I live on a farm and work in a small, rural school, I have access to some of the best connected and innovative educators in Victoria. Cheers to Twitter!

Down Blog’s Memory Lane


This post is my response to the Teacher Challenge, supported by Edublogs, Kickstart Activity 1:  Ten questions to ask my blog. The image was created in Tagxedo, using the text from this post.

1. Good Afternoon Mr. Technoscience. Now tell me when and why you started blogging?

My first post was in February, 2008 and I have been posting regularly since then, with over 260 posts to date. I was encouraged to start blogging when Heather Blakey visited our school for professional development. I saw blogs as a good place to collect all the many science, maths and other educational resources online, together in one space. I have been encouraged by Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch, both keen bloggers, as well as comments from other teachers and students.

2. Has it been difficult to keep blogging regularly?

 I usually post two or three times a week on each blog (I have five blogs now!) during the school term. I have a blog for each class I teach, so it is my lesson planning, resource storage, reflection space, as well as the place for my students and I to find links to content, tasks and extension activities. So it is not difficult, it replaces some of my pen-and-paper planning and is a resource for students who are absent and other teachers who may be interested.

3. Why did you create separate blogs, instead of different pages on your blog?

I found that it was more difficult to edit pages than post on the front page and most of the time, people just look at the most current material anyway. I could have created separate categories for each subject, but then the posts were moving down the front page too quickly. So now I have Biology, Environmental Science, Technomaths and “Photo a Day” blogs as well as Technoscience.

4. What do you like most about blogging?

I really like having my own space on the internet, where my students, as well as their parents and other teachers, can see the work we have been doing in class. Blogging helps to organise my thoughts and plan for the week ahead. It gives students a launching platform to the world wide web – a familiar place from which they can start to explore the vast array of resources available, with a specific task in mind. It is a place to celebrate student achievements (videos, slideshows, text and images of their work) and a place to gain feedback about their learning. It is one of the places, together with Twitter, where I can meet other teachers.

5. Which are your favourite tools to embed in blogs?

 I regularly use Irfanview to crop, rotate and resize images for my blog. These images are my own photos, creative commons photos and diagrams from Flickr or sourced using Creative Commons Search. I also often use Voicethread, Slideshare, MyStudiyo (quizzes), Google forms and YouTube to embed content I or my students have created. You can find links to these sites in the column at right.

6. Which of your posts have been the most popular?

According to which posts have received the most comments “Steep learning Curve”, “Porshe versus Volvo” and “Test-driving the Volvo” have been the most popular. “Like knitting with a knife and fork” was also an interesting post. The thing that these posts all have in common is that they are my reflections on teaching and learning with technology. I am always grateful for the positive feedback I receive from colleagues and teachers from other schools.

7. What have been the most challenging parts of blogging?

 In the beginning, the most difficult tasks were the ‘behind the scenes’ technical aspects – how to add widgets and links, embed code, manage comments and add an avatar. Now the biggest challenge is maintaining my readership – keeping the content interesting enough to attract an audience and have readers return to the site. I also find I am getting more spam comments, which need to be managed.

8. What have been your most exciting moments?

Receiving a comment on my first post (very encouraging), receiving a comment from a fellow maths and science teacher in Lima, Peru, requesting participation in a global project and being nominated and short-listed in the 2010 Edublogs awards.

 9. Where does your future lie?

I think that I will continue to blog as long as I teach, and possibly even after that! I believe blogging is an essential tool in my professional development, improving my teaching by thoughtful planning, gaining feedback from students and teachers and regular reflection on teaching and learning. Although the Ultranet is designed to host teacher and student blogs, I will be running my global teacher and edublogs sites outside the ‘walls’.

10. What would you say to teachers who don’t blog?

Blogging won’t suit all teachers, but technology is nothing to be afraid of – it is a neutral tool that can be used for both good and evil. Many of our students are very tech-savvy and expect to be constantly communicating and connected to the world beyond the classroom walls. Keeping a blog doesn’t need to be something extra on top of the daily teaching load, it can replace a professional learning journal, lesson planning diary and task sheets for students. Give it a try and you might even get the blogging bug!